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Can Cats Eat Fritos? Vet-Approved Alternatives & Risks

Written by: Ashley Bates

Last Updated on April 13, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

fritos corn chips

Can Cats Eat Fritos? Vet-Approved Alternatives & Risks


Dr. Alice Athow-Frost Photo


Dr. Alice Athow-Frost

Veterinarian, BVM BVS MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Our cats love getting into all kinds of goodies in the home. Fritos might be an odd request for most cats, but some cats may be attracted to the salty snack. If you find that your cat is drawn to Fritos, you might wonder if they are safe for them to consume. Fritos are certainly not a top-notch snack, and should not be fed to our pet cats.

Some flavors of Fritos contain ingredients that are toxic to cats.  If your cat has got into a bag of Fritos that you left unattended on the coffee table, you will need to look closely at the packet and call your vet if the ingredients include garlic or onion powder.  Both onion and garlic are toxic to cats.  Original flavored Fritos don’t contain any toxic ingredients but they still offer no nutritional value to your cat, and you should avoid letting your furry friend eat them when possible.

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Cats Shouldn’t Eat Fritos

As you probably already know, Fritos are not a nutritious snack. They contain very little of value for people or pets and all flavors except the “Original” and “Lightly Salted” contain ingredients that are toxic to cats. So, if you are trying to find a tasty snack to give your cat, Fritos shouldn’t be on the list.

The toxic ingredients that some flavors of Fritos contain are onion and garlic powder.  Some flavors also contain cheese and milk which some cats can react badly to. Onion and garlic are part of a group of plants called Alliums which are toxic to cats. They cause gastro-intestinal upset, and more seriously, they cause the breakdown of red blood cells, leading to anemia. You will need to be in contact with your vet as soon as possible if your cat has eaten a flavor containing onion or garlic powder.

Cats are obligate carnivores that require a meat-rich diet. Fritos contain no ingredient that is designed to nourish a cat’s system. While one Original flavored chip is unlikely to cause any negative effects, it can impact your cat’s overall health long-term if they eat large quantities regularly.

Cat vomiting
Image Credit: Tunatura, Shutterstock

Different Types of Fritos

As mentioned there are many flavors of Fritos, some of which contain ingredients that are toxic to cats. The table below outlines the flavors that contain toxic ingredients and those that don’t but it’s always crucial to check the packet of the flavor your cat has eaten to ensure it is safe.  If you aren’t sure, call your vet and let them know the ingredients, so that they can check for you.

Contain no toxic ingredients Contain toxic ingredients
Fritos Original Fritos Flavor Twists Honey and Barbeque
Fritos Lightly Salted Fritos Chili Cheese
Fritos Scoops Fritos Spicy Jalapeno
Fritos Flamin’ Hot

Each of these flavors has a different list of ingredients. Some contain only a handful of ingredients, while others are quite extensive. No matter the type of Fritos you enjoy, your cat should avoid all of the additives contained in many of the flavors, as they serve no purpose in the diet whatsoever.

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Why Fritos Are Bad for Cats

You might wonder why the non-toxic flavors are still not recommended for cat snacks.  There are several factors to consider.  Let’s go down the list.

1. Nutritionally inappropriate

A cat’s body is adapted to process food that is high in protein and low in carbohydrate.  Although they can efficiently metabolize and use carbohydrates, they don’t need much of them at all.  So a high carbohydrate snack such as Fritos is not an appropriate choice for a cat.

2. Full of Empty Calories

Fritos might be full of calories, but not the good kind! So how is something deemed an empty calorie snack? Empty calories come from foods that have little or no nutritional value. They aren’t good for our cats so it is best to give them other sources of calories that also give them valuable nutrition.

corn chips
Image Credit: Lizz Hintz, Shutterstock

3. High in Salt

Fritos are extremely high in sodium. Your cat doesn’t need extra sodium outside their regular commercial diets. Particularly in Fritos Original, a 28g serving (32 chips) contains 170 mg of sodium; that is 4.8mg per chip 1.  This is incredibly high for anyone, cats included.

Too much sodium in the diet can lead to a severe condition called salt toxicity or hypernatremia. Hypernatremia can occur when too much salt enters the bloodstream. However, a 3kg cat would have to consume about 6g (⅓ tablespoon) of salt and have limited access to fresh water for this to be likely 2.  However, if your cat consumes a whole bag of salty chips, it might be a possibility.

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  • Excessive thirst
  • Lethargy
  • Poor appetite
  • Weakness
  • Seizures
  • Behavioral changes
  • Internal bleeding
  • Seizures
  • Coma

If you suspect your cat has eaten a large number of Fritos and it is showing any of the above signs, get them to your vet immediately as it can be a rare but life-threatening condition.

4. High in Fat

In one serving of Fritos (28g), there are 10 grams of fat and very little of any other beneficial nutrients at all. This is a large amount of fat to consume as empty calories. If your cat is consuming a serving of Fritos, that means they will increase their overall fat intake.

Too much fat in the diet can lead to an increase in body weight, leading to obesity. Obesity is a recipe for other health issues to develop—like mobility problems and diabetes.

Even cats that are underweight and require weight gain don’t need these sorts of fats in this quantity. They need fats from healthy animal sources.

fat cat sitting on the grass
Image Credit: Dennis van de Water, Shutterstock

5. Contains Artificial Ingredients

Fritos can contain many artificial flavors and preservatives, depending on what flavor you get. Cats can be very sensitive to these additives, making them unsuitable for your companion to snack on.

While the Original Fritos only contains three ingredients, other recipes contain yellow 5 lake, yellow 6 lake, blue 2 Lake, red 40, and artificial flavors.

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Cats Likely Won’t Enjoy Fritos

Salt is a flavor that your cat can detect, unlike sweetness. So the chances of them being drawn to Fritos is pretty high. However, they probably won’t take time to eat the snack in its entirety. A few licks might suffice, and then they could be on to the next.

However, every cat is different. Some of them will enjoy the taste and texture more than others. If your cat is interested in eating Fritos, it’s best to ensure they are out of reach, especially those flavors that contain toxic ingredients.

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What to Give Your Cat Instead

So now you know that your cat shouldn’t have Fritos, but what can they have? Since cats are obligate carnivores, keeping in the realm of species-specific nutrients is best.

Offer some freshly cooked, seasoning-free meat like:
  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Oily fish
  • Duck
  • Turkey

These protein-filled snacks will hit the spot for your cat!

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So no, cats should never eat Fritos. Many flavors contain toxic ingredients and those flavors that aren’t toxic are not beneficial.  If your cat has eaten Fritos, it is important to carefully check the packet to ensure that there are no toxic ingredients contained.  If you are at all unsure, it is always best to call your vet for clarification and assurance.

Remember, even if your cat is attracted to human snacks, it does not make them suitable. Most of the time, processed foods are a no-go. So, it’s best to keep cats out of your Fritos bag.

See Also:

Featured Image Credit: rob3rt82, Shutterstock

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